Fennel soup, more or less as Simon Hopkinson has it in The Vegetarian Option
Much my favourite way to eat fennel.
2 medium onions chopped
350g fennel, trimmed and chopped
1 medium potato chopped
1 teasp fennel seeds
2 tblesp olive oil
salt and pepper
stock as you prefer in the quantity of 3/4 to 1 litre.
Into 250g of softened butter mix a bunch of parsley, quite a lot of finely chopped (mashed?) garlic, a splash of Pernod or something else aniseed flavoured, I used Pastis, salt, pepper, cayenne to taste, a few drops of Tabasco. Roll it into a cylinder on waxed paper. This is a vast amount, so what you don’t use now, (by cutting off discs of it) store in the waxed paper, with a roll of alfoil tightly fitting around that, in the freezer.
Soften onions in a large saucepan over medium or maybe even low heat – they are not to brown, of course. Always be patient with onions. Cooking them more quickly than one is supposed to, will always change the nature of the result. It might take 20 minutes. Then add the fennel and its seeds, and stir occasionally over another ten minutes. The potato can go in now with the stock, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, simmer until soft, maybe half an hour.
This is where I part company with Hopkinson. In that very English way, he now extremely finely sieves the soup and then adds cream. I do love cream, and I never try to avoid it, but this is already a lovely dish by simply pureeing, reheating and serving with a disc of butter in each bowl. Serve with buttered toast.
The aroma, as you swish that butter around the soup and it gently blends in, is as inviting as I can imagine a bowl of soup to be.
Afterthought: it will surely be obvious what else one can do with the butter. I am dying to try it on a plain grilled steak; it would be perfect in fish soup. I wonder what it would be like thinly sliced and tucked into the middle of an omelette. Tres bon, non?